50 things to do in Jerusalem this winterAlright, we'll be the first to admit it. Jerusalem's often chilly and often damp winters don't exactly exude the same obvious charm as the city's sultry summers or gloriously temperate, holiday-filled autumns.
But even if you'd balk at a stroll down the Haas Promenade or a day of football in Gan Sacher during a rainy winter day, there's plenty to see and do during a Jerusalem winter. And when the sun does shine, as it has all day long for pretty much the entire fall and winter so far, being out and about in Jerusalem is a pleasure all year long.
The three-weekend Hamshushalayim festival of upped cultural offerings, the winter solstice holiday celebrations of the city's many religious and secular factions, the heart of the local academic year, the throngs of international tourists filling the streets, and many more timely and timeless factors and activities have the potential to keep us entertained and enlightened all season long throughout winter 2010-2011.
So go ahead and embrace a Holy City winter. As always, we're standing by, ready to help with another voluminous list of things to do during the season.
1. Chanukah is here, of course. Get into the spirit with a nighttime stroll of Nachlaot during one of the latter nights of the holiday, when windows and alleyways will be lit up the lights of hundreds of fully-loaded chanukiyot (pictured).
2. Take a day trip to the Dead Sea to get some warmth.
3. If you're seeking substantial cold weather fare, nothing beats a bowl of soup at cozy soup nook HaMarakiya, which offers new and different brothy concoctions daily. 4. We've said it before, we've said it again - you need to see the renovated Israel Museum. And with the crowds at a low ebb, now's the time.
5. The traditional Jerusalemite way to warm up on a cold day is with sachlab (pictured), a fragrant hot pudding made from the root of a local orchid. Get a steaming cup topped with cinnamon powder and crushed pistachios from vendors in the Old City's souk or Machane Yehuda - or from the late-night bourekas shop near Safra Square.
6. Learn about the cultural significance which embroidery used to hold in the days of the Ottoman Empire's harems and royal courts at the Museum of Islamic Art's acclaimed new Embroidered Dreams display.
7. During the day throughout Chanukah, stop by one of the city's bakeries for a fresh-out-the-oven sufganiyah (Chanukah doughnut), which come in cooler and more creative flavors every year. Ouzo cream sufganiyah? Yes, please.
8. Eclectic venue HaMa'abada has got a red-hot lineup for Hamshushalayim - check out the full list here at HaMa'abada's page.
9. And the Chanukah festivities aren't limited to candles and doughnuts. The Bible Lands Museum is recreating the holiday's history for the kids, with a George Lucas spin.
10. The Tower of David Museum, joining in on the fun, also has a slew of family-friendly Chanukah activities on the docket, including the opportunity to impersonate Hasmoneans battling Hellenizers (pictured).
11. Never one to be left out of a holiday bash, the master puppeteers at the Train Theater are offering their own twist on the festivities, with new interprettions of classic fairy tales.
12. Also for Chanukah, Mini Israel is giving kids an opportunity to do what they've always dreamed of: pretend to be pastry-craving dwarves.
13. Weekly Etnachta classical musical concerts are free all winter at the Jerusalem Theatre, Wednesdays at 17:00 (but call to confirm before schlepping out).
14. New Spirit, a local student organization, holds an annual pub crawl every winter, and this year, the festivities culminate with a late-night DJ party at Hatza'atzua. To sweeten the deal, refreshments on sale for 15 NIS per portion include nachos, shots of Bushmills, platters of steamed edamame, glasses of wine, mini hot dog plates and sweet potato fries.
15. For three weekends starting during Chanukah, the yearly Hamshushalayim festival revs up again. There's far, far too much going on to list in this article, so check out our main Hamshushalayim portal and find something fun to do (like a bit of ethnic jazz violin, pictured, why not?)
16. Coffee helps keep the blood moving - there's no better time for a Cafe Aroma, the signature concoction of Israeli coffee chain Cafe Aroma (which boasts locations all over the city).
17. Science is important even during a holiday about the miraculously improbable eight-day burning of one day's worth of oil - so hie thee to the Bloomfield Science Museum to catch its Chanukah exhibits.
18. And even though Chanukah has little to do with Islam or art, the Museum of Islamic Art has its own tempting Chanukah event lineup for the whole family, with late hours, special performances and craft workshops.
19. December truly is the most wonderful time of the year: it's Whiskey Month at cocktail lounge Mia (pictured, kilted).
20. If for you winter means hot chocolate, forget Swiss Miss and have a hot chocolate in a cafe with cozy Victorian living room-style furniture, like Mona or Tmol Shilshom.
21. The Winter Concert Series at popular gastro-bar Colony, running Thursday nights through the end of the calendar year, includes forays into Bossa Nova, Flamenco and classic rock.
24. Christians in town over the Christian holidays should enjoy the unique experience of Christmas services in one of Jerusalem's landmark churches.
25. After services, take a stroll through the Christian Quarter and check out how native Christians deck the halls with (ersatz) boughs of holly (pictured).
26. Israelis call New Years Eve "Sylvester," and they like to celebrate it with all-night dance parties in the mega-clubs of the Talpiot neighborhood. Join them! Just follow the sound of the throbbing bass.
27. Eat delicious onion soup in a bread bowl at the Ticho House.
28. Rain is important (and atmospheric) during the winter months. Join the population of Jerusalem in praying for a bit of the wet stuff.
29. Eat a bag of hot chestnuts from a midrachov vendor, who sell them at night to fuel revelers and fortify strollers.
30. Once in a while, it snows in Jerusalem. Cross your fingers, and this winter you may get to see the unforgettable (and brief) sight of the Holy City beneath a blanket of snow.
31. Banish thoughts of cold with spicy, buttery, rib-sticking Ethiopian food at Shegar.
32. And on the subject of Jerusalem's Ethiopian community, check out the unique offerings of the city's only all-Ethiopian theater troupe at the Hulagab Ethiopian Theater Festival (pictured).
33. Listen to some hot local jazz in cozy environs at Birman.
34. Enjoy discounted meals for holders of student ID cards at top restaurants like Kedma (free beer), Black Bar 'n' Burger (combo deals for 45 NIS) and Taiku (30% off all maki rolls).
35. Who cares what the weather's like when you've got a few friends and three sheets to the wind? Whether you are a man or a lady, GoJerusalem has prepared a raucous nightlife iterinary for you and your posse.
36. We love Jerusalem, but maybe this winter you want to venture further afield. Descend into the desert or head up the coast with our top five day trips from Jerusalem.
37. Or if you'd rather not travel, you can see the whole country in eye-popping 3D at Mini Israel's new cinematic attraction (pictured).
38. Knock back a restorative Scotch or three at Glen Bar, or wrap your hands around a piping hot and appealingly boozy Irish coffee at Bolinat.
39. Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees (yes, there is one), usually rings in a can't-miss series of events for green-thumbers at the Botanical Gardens.
40. Nothing beats thumbing your nose at a cold winter's day curled up in a blanket with a good book. And for good books, you need the Jerusalem Book Fair, held annually each winter.
41. Spend a dreary day indoors at the Bloomfield Science Museum, checking out exhibits about the movies or water, or pulling up a chair at the Science Cafe.
42. The Jerusalem Studio School is running an exhibit through December of works from students, alumni and faculty, arranged around the vague (but fruitful) theme of smallness (pictured).
43. Ever longed for a retrospective of Jerusalem as depicted in Spanish art? The Ma'abada has your number.
44. Before coming home, Ashkenazi Jews lived in places that make Jerusalem's winters look like an August night in Ibiza. So it's no surprise that Ashkenazi cuisine is uniquely suited towards warding off the chills. Check out the top five Ashkenazi food joints in town.
45. And if the flavors of the shtetl aren't up your alley, eat some seasonal super-local food at one of the city's top restaurants that emphasize ingredients that are grown nearby, both in terms of time and space.
46. Get a thermos of coffee, pick a cool spot, pull up a chair and watch the world go by. The Holy City is one of the best places in the world for people watching.
47. Explore the contemporary city (pictured) while there's room to breathe and no hot sun beating down your neck. Jerusalem is known for its classic institutions and antiquities, but the new stuff is great too.
48. Go inward with some heady sound art.
49. Winter is a great time to catch the many lectures, book launch events and workshops constantly running at Mishkenot Sha'ananim.
50. Gourmands will appreciate the array of top eats on offer at La Guta's Friday Market and at the Malcha Mall Culinary Fair, which run every Friday throughout the winter.
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